How to Make Great Gravy This Thanksgiving (And How to Make It Without Drippings) (2024)

No turkey dinner is complete without this rich, savory sauce—it's what ties the whole meal together. But getting it just right can be tricky. How to make gravy that's sure to impress your guests? Try our Basic Turkey Gravy Recipe and use our smart tips to troubleshoot and fix the most common conundrums home cooks face when making gravy. Whether your gravy is bland, tastes like flour, is lumpy, too thin, too thick, or you don't have drippings, we have solutions.

How to Make Great Gravy This Thanksgiving (And How to Make It Without Drippings) (1)

Problem: Your Gravy is Bland

Gravy is a highlight of any holiday meal—except when it falls short on depth and flavor. Luckily, we have a few simple solutions.

How to Fix It

Add a scoop of store-bought demi-glace (we like D'Artagnan's duck-and-veal demi-glace) for meaty richness, or a splash of soy sauce for an umami infusion.

If the gravy lacks oomph, adjust seasoning as necessary with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. If you used canned stock instead of homemade, the gravy might not be as flavorful. Homemade stock, even made with chicken stock rather than turkey, will produce a superior gravy—so it's worth the effort.

How to Make Great Gravy This Thanksgiving (And How to Make It Without Drippings) (2)

Problem: Your Gravy Tastes Like Flour

Flour thickens your gravy, but if you don't allow enough time for the ingredients to come together, or if they're not combined properly, the end result can be disappointing—it can feel doughy, chalky, or taste like flour.

How to Fix it

How to make gravy that isn't reminiscent of dough? Make sure the flour has been cooked long enough: When flour is added to the pan drippings or butter, whisk constantly while the mixture cooks until it turns a deep golden brown and smells nutty. If you realize that your gravy tastes like flour when you're almost finished, turn up the heat to maintain a rapid simmer for several minutes; then thin it again with more stock or water if necessary.

Problem: Your Gravy is Lumpy

While it may seem logical to add flour to stock that's been boiling on the stovetop, that can actually lead to a culinary mishap every home cook tries to avoid: lumpy gravy.

How to Fix It

If bumps appear no matter how well you whisk, it's probably because you've added flour directly to hot stock; starch granules swell unevenly in boiling liquid. Thankfully, there's an easy remedy. To save it, pour the sauce through a fine sieve.

How to Avoid This Issue Next Time

Start by mixing 2 cups of room-temperature stock with 1 tablespoon instant flour, such as Wondra (it's precooked and dried so it will dissolve easily). Then stir that mixture into the boiling stock.

Problem: Your Gravy is Too Thin

Gravy that lacks substance also detracts from the festive feast. Our French fix works wonders!

How to Fix It

Simmer the gravy over medium-high heat, allowing the liquid to reduce. If your gravy is still too thin, add a beurre manié (French for kneaded butter): Make a paste of equal parts flour and room-temperature unsalted butter, and add it a little at a time, whisking constantly, until the gravy thickens.

Problem: Your Gravy is Too Thick

Sludgy thick gravy is far from ideal. With a bit of patience and a smidge of stock, you can easily turn the situation around.

How to Fix It

Gradually whisk a little stock or water into the gravy until it reaches the desired consistency.

Problem: You Don't Have Drippings

If roasting a turkey is off the table this holiday, there's a simple solution for adding essential poultry flavor to your gravy.

How to Fix It

The liquid and juicy bits from the roasting pan form gravy's flavor base. If you're grilling or frying the bird this year, make drippings with a simple workaround: Roast chicken wings, and deglaze the pan with stock.

Watch our Kitchen Conundrums expert Thomas Joseph whip up a delicious gravy without drippings:

How to Make Great Gravy This Thanksgiving (And How to Make It Without Drippings) (2024)

FAQs

What to do if turkey has no drippings? ›

So how do you make turkey gravy without drippings? It's all about finding a replacement for the browned, complex meaty flavor the drippings offer. For a no-drippings gravy, aromatics such as onions, celery, carrot, bell pepper, and/or garlic, can help, as can umami-rich elements like mushrooms.

Can you make gravy with just flour and water? ›

(You can also start with a slurry of flour and water—equal amounts flour and cold water whisked together—if you want.) Whisk the gravy while slowly adding liquid: Slowly add stock, water, milk, cream, or a combination to the pan, whisking vigorously to dissolve the flour into liquid.

What can you add to homemade gravy to make it taste better? ›

Bonus: Seasoning for Tasty Gravy

I only season my homemade gravy with salt and pepper, and it's delicious! If you want to add more spices, avoid anything with large pieces (such as dried rosemary) to keep gravy smooth. Thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, paprika, and oregano all taste great.

Is gravy better with flour or cornstarch? ›

Making a roux with flour and butter “boosts flavor and gives the gravy a silky texture and rich flavor,” she says. Flour also gives the gravy a traditional opaque look, she adds, whereas cornstarch will make the gravy shiny and clear.

What thickener is best for gravy? ›

Similar to flour, cornstarch is another ingredient that can be used to make gravy thicker. With cornstarch, making a slurry is also an option, but with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch whisked into cold water. Again, you'll want to add the slurry in increments so you don't over-thicken the gravy.

Should I put liquid in with my turkey? ›

Add about 1/2 inch of liquid (water or stock) to the roasting pan. This will keep the oven moist and the turkey juicy. This aromatic liquid can be used to baste the turkey while it cooks (there is a debate about whether basting does anything, but it's part of the tradition).

Should you put water in a pan with turkey? ›

Make sure to season a bit inside the cavity as well. You can pour a little of water in the bottom of the roasting pan, but keep in mind the turkey will release drippings as well as it cooks. However, if you're making gravy, it's best to add about a cup of water to the roasting pan.

What is the formula for gravy? ›

A traditional roux uses roughly an equal amount of flour and fat, but gravies often call for a bit more flour than that, to ensure the gravy is thick enough. (The classic ratio for gravy is three:two:one, so 3 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons fat, and 1 cup of hot stock.)

What happens if you put too much flour in gravy? ›

Gravy gets a jelly-like texture due to too much thickener. Too much flour, for instance, can result in a gummy consistency (particularly when left overnight in the fridge). Reheating with additional liquid can often help soften things up.

How to make turkey gravy taste better? ›

The Not-Quite-as-Easy-but-Better-Way: Add Aromatics. If you're going the store-bought-stock route, try simmering it down with some roughly chopped mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery), a couple of bay leaves, peppercorns, and some fresh herbs, like thyme or parsley stems.

How do you add depth of flavor to gravy? ›

If your gravy tastes great but it lacks a little depth, add an umami flavor boost. Umami flavors are deeply savory and feel round on the palate. Spruce up the gravy with a splash of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce (if the gravy isn't already too salty, that is).

How do you fix tasteless gravy? ›

If the gravy lacks oomph, adjust seasoning as necessary with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. If you used canned stock instead of homemade, the gravy might not be as flavorful. Homemade stock, even made with chicken stock rather than turkey, will produce a superior gravy—so it's worth the effort.

How do you add depth to gravy? ›

Incorporate Drippings From the Roasting Pan

While heating your store-bought gravy on the stove, add drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan to make it more flavorful. The extra fat and flavorful little brown bits give it that store-bought gravy depth and complexity.

How do you add richness to gravy? ›

Butter. Powdered gravy mixes are heavy on the salt and meat flavor. Their flavor is usually pretty aggressive and their mouth feel comes from starch, not fat or collagen. A big pat of butter will temper the harsh flavor and provide richness.

Is gravy better with water or milk? ›

I actually like gravy made with water best, but experiment and see what works for you. Broth will give you a really flavor-packed gravy and gravy made with milk will be richer (but a little sweet for my taste). Butter: Adding a bit of butter after the gravy has thickened will make it silky-smooth and rich.

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